I’ve become someone I hate-someone who judges a production before it has even been produced. I did it with James Graham’s Brexit: An Uncivil War, an interesting drama that was limited by the fact it was written too soon.
I am now doing it with David Mamet’s Bitter Wheat, which comes to the West End in June 2019. On the positives it has a strong cast of John Malkovich (returning to the London stage after nearly 30 years), Doon Mackichan, a versatile and experienced comedy actress in stage and screen and newcomer Ionna Kimbrook making her West End debut after graduating from Bristol Old Vic and I like Mamet as a writer, when he writes for men. There is an issue of trust here, even the dynamic of the casting (experienced and acclaimed American actor, with a British actress making her debut) feels off. Can Mamet be trusted to write about this power struggle when it is already being described as a ‘black comedy’ Even the tagline of ‘Money, Sex, Power’ sounds like a celebration of these things.
Bitter Wheat is based on Harvey Weinstein, who has become the face of #metoo. Weinstein’s downfall (though he is yet to be convicted of many crimes) has already influenced some interesting documentaries (Untouchable is due for release after its recent Sundance screening, Channel 4’s Working with Weinstein and even BBC Panorama to name a few) and some even better fiction in the form of Anomaly, which looked at the impact accusations have on family, friends and colleagues).
The issue with Bitter Wheat isn’t timing, I don’t think it is too soon for this play, but I think the issue is with how men want to claim this story. Steven Berkoff’s boohooing in November about how nobody wants to see an 81-year-old man play Weinstein
As a woman, I don’t want to hear a man justify why another man behaved appallingly. I find Weinstein repulsive, why do I want to see an actor portray him? I find it concerning how Weinstein’s downfall has resonated with so many. Are industry types worried they are next? Worried they are complicit? Where are the stories about Kevin Spacey, is there less interest because Spacey focused on young men, rather than young women?
I will give Bitter Wheat the benefit of doubt, maybe Mamet will write a sensitive portrayal from the women’s point of view but based on his previous work I am sceptical.
Bitter Wheat opens on 7 June www.bitterwheatplay.com